"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)
There is an absolutely fantastic piece by Peter Linebaugh over at Counterpunch in which he describes a new radical archiving initiative in conjunction with the May Day Rooms. The May Day Rooms is “a safe house for vulnerable archives and historical material linked to social movements, experimental culture, and marginalised figures and groups. A site for gathering, holding, and animating documents and idioms of dissent which continue to offer a critically productive and emancipatory relation to the turbulent present.”
Linebaugh’s article describes a recent initiative (with Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis and others) to document the cluster of pamphlets, books and other marginalia associated with the Midnight Notes operation. This includes the Zerowork project of the mid 1970s, the New York Wages for Housework campaign and the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa.
This is a pressing initiative, as Linebaugh suggests:
“In our day, as the traces of our radical movements are being thrown into rubbish pits, as state sponsored ‘austerity’ demands the commodification of every inch of space, and with sinister intent destroys the evidence of our past, its joys, its victories. Clear out the closets, empty the shelves, toss out the old footage, shred the underground press, pulverize the brittle, yellowing documents! Thus neo-liberalism organizes the transition from the old to the new; they must silence alternatives.”
If Linebaugh’s piece artfully reconstructs a counter-history of radical dissent around Clerkenwell Green and the Marx Memorial Library, I was struck by the connection between archiving and the assembling of a radical infrastructure for social transformation. As the recent arson attack at the Freedom Bookstore shows, it is imperative that we continue to nurture spaces that seek to document and preserve the actions and words of earlier struggles for a different world. Those struggles, more than ever before, are our struggles.
IMAGE: From http://maydayrooms.org/collections/round-about-midnight/